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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

GW Tobacco Cessation Efforts

GW Study Finds That Medicaid Policies That Help Smokers Quit Also Save on Health Care Costs.

Medicaid policies that require patients to go for tobacco-cessation counseling before they get a nicotine patch or some other type of anti-smoking drug actually lead to a reduction in the use of such medication, according to a study by Dr. Leighton Ku, professor of health policy and management at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Medicaid agencies that adopted the policy did so because they thought it would give smokers a powerful tool to help them quit. But this study, published in October 2016, suggests that the policy did the opposite—and actually lowered the use of anti-smoking medication by one-quarter to one-third.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and disease in the United States. And Dr. Ku notes that almost one out of three adults covered by Medicaid currently smoke.

While some Medicaid policies, like the counseling requirement, erected an obstacle for some smokers, other policies seemed to help smokers who wanted access to such medication. Dr. Ku and his team found, for example, that states that covered all types of anti-smoking drugs ramped up the use of such drugs by as much as 34 percent.

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GW Study: Strengthening Medicaid’s Commitment to Anti-Smoking Measures Could Save Money

A study published in the January 2016 issue of Health Affairs by researchers at George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health provides new data on how often state Medicaid programs provide help with smoking cessation. Based on data about the level of medications purchased by Medicaid, the researchers estimate that only 10 percent of smokers on Medicaid received medication to help them stop smoking every year.

The Affordable Care Act required that all state Medicaid programs cover at least some counseling and FDA-approved therapies like nicotine gum and drugs like bupropion and varenicline. Yet the study, “Medicaid Tobacco Cessation: Big Gaps Remain in Efforts to Get Smokers to Quit,” found that some states were doing a better job than others at getting Medicaid smokers the help they need.

Strengthening Medicaid’s commitment to anti-smoking measures could save the program money in the long run, said Dr. Leighton Ku, professor of health policy and management at GW and lead author of the study. One study estimated that $1 invested in tobacco cessation lowered Medicaid expenditures by about $3 because of a rapid reduction in hospital visits for cardiovascular disease, the report points out.

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